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I often notice that most people don’t take advantage of most universal shortcut keys like the function keys. I am going to show you some of the common keys that (usually) work across the board.

The Function Keys

F1 will bring up a help screen you can try in your browser now

F2 will make it able to rename data

F5 will Refresh the current data

F7 will launch spell check

F11 will go in to or out of full screen mode

F12 will save as (will explain in more detail later)

The Modifier Keys

Modifier keys will take the key that is pressed along with the modifier key, and change the action of that key. Most modifier keys can be used other regular keys. Modifier keys can be combined with other modifier keys to get different actions
  

CTRL (may be CTR, CTRL, or Control) is the primary modifier key. ctrl is usually used for application specific actions (like copy text from current window, or close current browser tab)

ALT is the secondary modifier key. have you ever noticed on some menu’s there are words with one letter from a word underlined (like File, Edit, or Help) .If you press alt and that letter that command is issued.

Alt, when pressed on its own (again…not in every application) it will bring focus to the first toolbar menu

Microsoft Notepad after ALT key was pressed

Microsoft Notepad after ALT key was pressed

The windows key. This key is tricky. primarily this key is used to launch the Start Menu. In newer operating systems (like Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) the windows key is a very powerful tool. this modifier is used for system wide commands (like Show desktop, Open windows explorer, or to lanuch a search window)

in past opperating systems, the windows key will look like this

SHIFT is primarily used to change the case of a key (like change the “g” key to a “G” or the “1” key to a “!”) but it can be used for keys that don’t have a secondary command, (like Enter, or Backspace) but is more commonly used in combination with other modifiers sutch as CTRL, (so you would get CTRL + SHIFT + 1)

More to come

Google Wave will start allowing a very select few to test it’s new e-mail replacement system, and your local favorite tech blogger has no doubt hyped the holy living crap out of this.  However, Google is only allowing 100,000 people in the program and with about 3 billion internet users ( maybe more) world wide your chances of being selected are very slim. To get your feet wet into the ideas and concepts of Google Wave try some of the services below.

Campfire

Campfire is a business oriented solution that shares more  in common with Wave than any other service that I have come across.  It is basically a chat room on steroids. The most prominent features is the ability to upload pictures and documents directly into the chat window.  This allows anyone chatting to see and comment on the file which you have uploaded.  It also stores and keeps all your chat logs hosted on it’s website, so you can come back later and review.  The only thing it doesn’t do, is send emails and really who does that anymore ? On the downside campfire is a service that will cost you a few dollars there are variable pricing plans and a free trial if you want to take Campfire for a spin.

Pro: Professional look and seem less integration between pictures and chat

Cons: Subscription Fees!

http://campfirenow.com/

Stixy

Stixy really takes the Google Wave ideas to heart. It is a collaborative work environment that allows you to share, pictures,documents, and make comments via sticky notes.   All in all it can be used in very similar ways as campfire, but the chat is a lot less fluid and more like a message board.  The look and feel are something very similar to an online cork board.  You can save boards for later and start a new board any time you want. If you were planning on using this for work I would forget it. Stixy really seems like something your kids would be playing with.

Pro’s: It really looks awesome and is super fun to play with.

Con’s: It looks like a kids toy and is probably not good actual productivity.

http://www.stixy.com

Thinkature

Is basically Stixy for the business world.  It is very professional looking, allows pictures to be uploaded, documents, diagramming, free hand drawing, and voice chat. This all around package really seems like a productivity monster and would allow any form of collaboration that you would find in Google Wave, plus a little.  The only downside being that it isn’t tide directly into your email and there isn’t a wiki feature.

Pros:  Business Look and feel, Voice Chat

Cons:  Organizations of boards feels a unintuitive.

http://www.thinkature.com/

Conclusions:

All though none of these solutions offers all the same features as Google Wave there sure is a lot to love about all these web apps.  For the average user the Wave is a long way off and we want some thing now.  By far my favorite app to use was Thinkature it’s free and it’s awesome.  The hype built up around Wave will inevitably be a let down when you finally do get around to using it. So, go enjoy something similar while you still have that reality distortion field tightly in your grasp.

I am sure everyone has heard this solution a couple times, I know I have. But I would like to share how I use gmail to keep track of my projects, and why.

How

I just started a todo list with the order of most importance.  Importance is usually decided by due date, but in some circumstances like studying for a test.  I move it higher in the ranking even it’s further away, because I need to do a little bit every night.  If a project is a one shot deal, I will  put it in the queue with no information.  What I really like about using gmail though is that I can type whatever I want, however I want, unrestricted and quickly.  When I have multi-part projects I leave little notes about where I am in the project and whatever else I think will be useful in the future.  My current queue looks like this.

Assignment 2 for cs372  // P38 get help on! Get answers in a format I can turn in.

Senior Project Work // Work on the post tonight and then finish my two features for core and then help on website.

CS372 // Study for midterm a little every night

CS 419  Paper or Patch //Decide if I want a paper or patch ?

Pretty simple yet informative! Then every time you need to update your todo list hit the reply button, copy and paste the remaining tasks , add notes and hit send. Now your tasks will always be visible as unread mail and easy to find.

Why?

Yes this is basically just typing things down in a todo list so why use gmail ?  Because I know I will always check my gmail. Having my todo list in a place that I know I will always look it is the best part and it is always marked unread so it catches my eye.  Since I began using gmail to keep track of my projects,  I have been a lot more on top of things and haven’t forgotten or missed a single deadline. This solution has been working great for me and it can work great for you!

Tell us how you track your projects and why!

I have been writing about my productivity tricks and tips since I began writing this blog.  Productivity is really important for me, because I have a really busy life and need to squeeze every minute for all that it’s worth.  I have gathered all the posts I have written about productivity and put them in one place for all the productivity nuts out there.

Increase Your Productivity with a Six Pack

Time Management: How I manage Work, School, Family and More

Where Stress Comes From

Self Improvement in Under an Hour a Day

How to Make Your Dreams Come True

the opposite of Productivity

The Best Ways to Waste Your Time

Time management is a difficult venture for most people. They don’t understand how to keep time under control, and more importantly when to be flexible. More often than not when one is in pursuit of time savings they often forget to maintain boundaries. When you get too busy you have got to let someone down.  Here is a look at how I manage a full college education, part time job, two kids, a wife, and a floundering blog!

Boundaries

The most important part of time management is boundaries. In my life everything has a boundary. I have a certain amount of time that I a work, a certain amount of time I spend at school, I even have a certain amount of time to play with my kids. This is very important because it allows me to do several things.

First, I am able to set expectations. I let people know that I have a certain amount of time for a said activity and that amount of time will not and should not vary. Most people are highly responsive to this, because I am straight forward and make my priorities clear. Setting expectations for individuals also forces them to value your time.

Next, my time has value. If you run out of a meeting early or skip one all together people are often miffed. However, if you have clearly set boundaries and you are up against your time line people will let it slide. They know that their scheduled time has run out. They are also aware that the next big thing of the day is waiting for you, and most importantly they know when their time is coming again. I generally don’t get over inundated with small talk and other forms of time wasting because colleagues and friends alike know that my time is important.

Finally, setting boundaries establishes your priorities. It is often very clear what is most important in your life by the amount of time you allocate that activity. I spend the vast majority of my free time with my family, because they are most important to me. This is a very important distinction to draw when you are very busy! It lets everyone who knows what they shouldn’t even try to interrupt, and what they might have a chance at disturbing.

Being Flexible

Like a proverbial rubber band if you stretch this concept too far it will definitely break. Life is not a strictly structured march through a daily routine. Cars breakdown, the weather go’s nuts, and the neighbor’s dog just might chase a skunk into your car, this is when you must be flexible, and also when to understand your priorities. I often have times when I must alter my schedule for the day. I have to stay a little longer at school or the kids need some extra attention. You must simply identify your problem and then decide whether it is worth taking time away from something else. My strategy often consists of finding a block of time that I can take from without affecting my family time. If worst comes to worst I will take my family time and move it back cutting time from my sleep. If you want time management to work for you, you must be willing to shuffle your schedule around and to be flexible.

Late Nights and Coffee

In the course of a busy life there is too much that can go wrong. Often the easiest resort to take is to get behind a little bit at a time and then catch up all at once. Let’s say my home work is just more than I expected. I will put off whatever I can all week long and then pull a terrific 8 hour sprint until four o clock in the morning and then I will be caught up all at once. If you are planning a tight schedule you best stock up on coffee and other forms of caffeinated beverages.

Letting Someone Down

If you are worried about time management chances are you are busy. When planning a schedule to the absolute limit you will end up letting someone down. I have to let people down about once a month; there are just some things you cannot for see that wipe out entire days. Basically, you have to contact the people that are affected by your schedule failure and tell them you won’t be there and here is why. Don’t be afraid! People are very sympathetic to a person that misses a meeting or event as long as you give ample notice and have a decent reason. If you get free tickets to the Yankees and call your boss 20 minutes before work you are most likely in big trouble. If you talk to your boss a day in advance cause your daughter has tonsillitis, you will be fine.

Managing your time can be tough but if you carefully define boundaries, keep yourself flexible and are willing to spend a few nights with coffee, than you will definitely make it.

If you are a super advanced G-mail monster user, than Xoopit probably isn’t for you. If you are like the rest of us and just like to go check your email than you will love Xoopit. Xoopit is a Firefox plugin that indexes all your attachments and then allows you to access them by category.

Features

The primary features of Xoopit are very simple, but this plugin adds depth on top of depth.  The user interface rests on top of your inbox and fits very well with the Gmail look and feel.  It has three categories on the left; photos, videos, and files.  The photo viewer seems pretty advanced for use within Gmail. You can scroll sideways through all your pictures.  When you choose a picture it will pop up to a much larger size.  It then gives you the option to download, view full size, forward, delete, send to blog, and if the picture came from flickr or a similar service it gives you the link.  The video and file viewer work in a very similar manner.

There is also facebook support, which at this time is really limited.  You can login and make facebook status updates from within gmail.  If you don’t like facebook you can just remove  that portion with one click.   Xoopit also has games.  However, this feature is relegated to the bottom of the page and for good reason.  The only games included are solitaire and a bowling game that gets boring in a few seconds.  I really wish the developers would not have included this at all.

Problems

I love this plugin as much as I have ever loved a plugin, but it has some downfalls.  The first and for most is the name, what does Xoopit even mean ?  It is just an inexplicable name for such a high end product.  Hopefully, the creators can change the name once they make some money.  The second is a search feature that is found inline next to the “To” line.  The search feature only ever gets in my way.  I can’t think of a reason I would want to search from within an email that I am writing.  I wouldn’t mind searching from within my inbox, though.  The inbox is often an open tab and just sitting there waiting for some extra functionality.

Xoopit really makes your gmail better. It was of the few additions to gmail I have seen that doesn’t require training, but offers a great return.  If you use gmail than you need Xoopit.

Hit the link to get start with Xoopit

written by

Jon

Long ago we used to have a devoted legion of homemakers. They were all women.  Eventually, a revolution occurred that allowed women to leave the role of home maker and pursue careers or fulfilling lives outside of the home.  Due to recent trends, home makers are making a comeback, but now home makers are both men and women.  Often, one of the parents is the home maker and sometimes its hired help.  In any case we have a legion of untrained, unprepared home makers.  Many of these people think Kraft Mac and Cheese is a major part of the food pyramid.  Our home makers need education.

Why Educate in a College

Education is important for every person.  People that choose to stay at home are no different.  There is so much to learn about cooking, cleaning, finances, nutrition, first aid, and much more.  Being a homemaker requires you to be good at a whole lot of things.  Currently, we are basically telling people that either your parents should have taught you all the skills you need, or you should just learn them on your own.  The first problem with this is that we have a generation of people that were raised in daycare facilities with diets of frozen entrees or fast food.  These individuals were never taught by their parents.  The second problem is that when people learn these skills on their own, they usually fail to do it properly.

Curriculum

A university could easily populate a two or four year curriculum based on the most important things a home maker should learn, complete with core requirements and electives.  I believe a student would have to pick a particular specialty.  So you could have a BS in homemaking with an emphasis or minor in the culinary arts, or a minor in first aid, etc.   There would definitely be classes for finance, first aid, nutrition, and health.  Electives could vary widely from auto mechanic classes to plumbing to sewing.

Benefits

The benefits of a program like this would be infinite.  First and foremost it would give the home makers a sense of accomplishment.  A degree would validate many people’s lives and give them a definitive identity.  They would no longer have to field questions of why they gave up the college opportunity.  Secondly, I believe that having a well trained home maker would improve the economy as whole.  A well oiled machine at home will reduce the worries for children and professional adults.  It would allow the children to get a better education, and the working parent to worry less about home and more about work.  This would be good for everyone.

Finally, imagine the difference for our health care system if every household had a parent with some medical knowledge. We would see far fewer children being brought to the doctor for minor injuries and colds. If every household had a parent that was educated in nutrition the U.S. would have far less diabetes and obesity.

Universities around the world really need to start thinking about more fields of study than what they currently have.  They need to step out of the box and realize that a quality education can help everyone.  We all need to realize that a wonderful homemaker can make every family members life better.

As a student who works, has a daughter, and wife I know what’s it like to get stressed.  I also know whats it like to get behind on work.  Sometimes it just piles up, this happens whether you are diligent or not.  I have a few tips to help you get through those tough times, but you will need a six pack or some other motivational item.

Preparation

Your first and most important task is to develop a list of all the things you need to do.  This will allow you to gain perspective about the true scope of your task.  It makes a huge difference to know if you have ten hours, twenty hours, or a week total.  The next thing you need to do is organize your list by due date, if you have many things due on the same date order them by difficulty, easiest tasks first. ( Note to reader: These rules do not apply to everyone, please surgeons do not use easiest first.)  You will also need to go to the store and get whatever motivates you.  For me it’s a six pack of the finest Bud Light that money can buy.  Your motivation will be waiting for you, when you finish for the day.  This alleviates a lot of the stress involved in doing tons of work cause you have something to look forward too.

Taking Care of Business

Now that you are prepared comes the easy part right, not really.  Organizing and getting your work done is made much easier when you organize and give yourself a clear line of sight.   This is helpful, because it removes one more distraction from your work.  When you are ready to start working you need to find a distraction free environment.  When I am working. I spend my time in the office, some don’t have that luxury. You may need to hole up in the bedroom, garage, shed, or local coffee place.  Do what it takes to remove distractions, your sanity will thank you.  From earlier you have organized your tasks by due date and then whats easiest.  It is extremely helpful to do the easy tasks first, every task you finish lifts a bit of weight off your shoulders and gives you a sense of accomplishment.  Getting a large amount of work done is all about momentum,  once you get the ball rolling it’s easy to keep it going.

Let’s take a break

The hardest part of this whole process for most people is to continue working once they have started.  This is because most people cannot relax in a productive way.  When you are doing huge multi hour work jams, you need to take a break at least every hour, for about 10 minutes.  Do not, Do not, Do not under any circumstance turn on your television, pick up a video game, or lie on a bed during this time.  Productive uses of your break include getting more supplies like water,coffee, or a banana.  You could also spend that ten minutes on the phone talking to a friend or your wife.  This would also be an excellent time to take a walk around the block or do a few push-ups.  When you take your breaks make sure it’s something you can do in the time you allotted and something you don’t mind quitting within ten or fifteen minutes.

Let’s Celebrate

The final step to an extremely productive day is to celebrate.  These working sessions are seldom fun and always cause a person tons of stress.  So, when you finish it is time to bring out your motivation item.  I prefer a six pack, some people like ice cream, or a great movie.  Whatever it is you love it is now time to enjoy it.   Celebrating and treating yourself helps you to remove stress and associate hard work with positive feelings.  This makes it much easier to have another work jam or just to keep up on your work in the first place.

When you get stressed and overly busy. Get productive with a 6 pack.

written by Jon